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Yahoo Unveils Livetext Mobile Messaging App

July 31, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Yahoo unveiled a mobile messaging app that combines texting with live one-on-one video.

The app, named Livetext, is video calling with a twist: there’s no audio. To communicate, users type texts and emojis that are overlaid onto the screen during the call.

The app’s format might sound restricting, but Yahoo says Livetext will help users to communicate more freely. The lack of audio, the company says, removes inhibitions that people might feel when they otherwise receive video calls in public.

“We wanted to bridge the gap between the simplicity and ease of texting, with the live feeling of calling,” said Adam Cahan, senior vice president of video, design and emerging products at Yahoo, during the app’s unveiling at an event in New York on Wednesday that was webcast.

Livetext was developed from scratch at Yahoo. Its development was aided by Yahoo’s acquisition last year of mobile messaging app MessageMe, the company said Wednesday. It’s yet another messaging app in a sea of competitors like Snapchat, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

Still, Livetext is the latest attempt by Yahoo to provide a messaging app that resonates with users. It became available to download for free on Thursday for iOS and Android, in the U.S., U.K, Canada, Ireland, Germany, France, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Users will be able to text in English, French, German and Chinese using the app.

The app streams video only when two people are connected through the app at the same time. Users can search for friends in the app through their Livetext user name, or through the contacts list on their phone.

There is no time limit on calls placed through the app, and no way to save or archive the sessions. The video quality will depend on the strength of the data connection, although connections at 3G and above should suffice, Yahoo said.

It’s available on Android and the desktop, but not on iOS.

 

 

 

 

Samsung Plans Price Cut For Galaxy S6 Phones

July 31, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Lukewarm demand for its flagship Galaxy S6 smartphone and higher marketing costs led Samsung Electronics to another quarter of declining sales and profits in the April to June period.

In the key smartphone market, an area led by Samsung until recently, the popularity of Apple’s iPhone 6 and 6 Plus handsets and the rise of lower-cost phones from Chinese vendors squeezed Samsung at both the high and low end of the market.

The company said Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge sales were lower than expected.

It still managed to make money but not nearly as much as the same time last year. Operating profit for the quarter was 2.8 trillion won, down about 38 percent on the same period of 2014.

The results come against a backdrop of continuing record quarterly results at smartphone rival Apple. It sold 47.5 million phones in the quarter and recorded sales of $49.6 billion and a quarterly net profit of $10.7 billion — both squarely ahead of sales and profits at Samsung.

For the rest of this year, Samsung said it will attempt to boost smartphone sales by reducing the price of the Galaxy S6 and introducing new large-screen models. This time more than ever before, the company is under intense pressure to score a hit with a new phone to help turn around its declining business.

 

 

Is Wafer Output Headed Down?

July 31, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

United Microelectronics (UMC) expects to post an up to 5 per cent decrease in wafer shipments for the third quarter of 2015.

The outfit’s capacity rate will fall below 90 per cent for the first time after being flat out for ages.

UMC CEO Po-Wen Yen said the third quarter, would suffer from the inventory correction problems that were first noticed in the first quarter.

Current weakness in overall demand, partly due to the uncertainties in economic outlook, will prolong the inventory adjustment through the second half of 2015,” he said.

UMC used 94 per cent of its overall capacity in the second quarter of 2015, when the company shipped a record 1.54 million 8-inch equivalent wafers.

Shipments during the quarter were driven mainly by 28nm products, the foundry noted.

UMC reported consolidated revenues of $1.23 billion for the second quarter, down 6 per cent on last year. Gross margin came to 22.9 per cent compared with 24.3 per cent in the first quarter and 22.9 per cent in second.

UMC created net profits of $1.45 billion in the second quarter of 2015 – the highest level in nine quarters.

Looking into the third quarter, UMC expects to use 87-89 per cent of its overall capacity in the third quarter. Wafer shipments and ASPs will fall up to 5 per cent and about 3 per cent, respectively, on quarter.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Uber Jumps Into Car Leasing Business

July 31, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Uber Technologies has rolled out its own auto leasing subsidiary in an effort to secure more drivers, injecting the fast-growing ride services company directly into the financial services sector for the first time.

The move by Uber, announced as a pilot project, follows the end of its partnership with Banco Santander’s U.S. lending unit earlier this year.

Uber announced the initiative but disclosed few financial details, though it said it would offer both new and used cars.

Uber launched a program in November 2013 to arrange manufacturer discounts and lenders for prospective drivers who lacked cars in the hopes it would boost vehicles driving for the app-based service.

At the time, Uber said it hoped to finance 100,000 drivers. Nearly 20,000 drivers have participated in the program so far, Uber said.

Santander Consumer USA Holdings declined to comment last week on why the Uber leasing deal ended. Uber continues to partner with other lenders for car purchases.

Andrew Chapin, head of vehicle solutions for Uber, this week said Uber wants to provide drivers with more flexibility than traditional leasing companies can offer. Participants in Uber’s program can return their vehicle with two weeks notice and “limited additional costs,” the company said.

One of the fastest-growing sharing-economy companies, Uber operates in 57 countries, with an estimated value of more than $40 billion. It has also tangled with transportation authorities across the globe, along with attorneys seeking to deem Uber drivers employees entitled to benefits.

Uber’s entry into auto leasing brings it into contact with yet another set of regulators in a controversial business. The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau last month said it would oversee non-bank auto lenders who process at least 10,000 loans or leases per year.

The CFPB said it seeks to ensure such leases are marketed accurately, and that debt collectors operate fairly.

 

 

Nokia Unveils Virtual Reality Camera

July 30, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Finland’s Nokia, once the world’s largest mobile phone manufacturer, has debuted a spherical camera designed for making 3D movies and games that can be watched and played with virtual reality headsets.

The device, showcased at an event in Los Angeles, takes video and audio in 360 degrees with eight sensors and microphones, and is the first from Nokia’s digital media solutions business — one of its new focuses for future growth.

Nokia is going through restructuring after selling its mobile phone business to Microsoft last year and following that up with a proposed 15.6 billion euro ($17.2 billion) acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent, which is set to boost its main network equipment business.

“We expect that virtual reality experiences will soon radically enhance the way people communicate and connect to stories, entertainment, world events and each other,” Nokia executive Ramzi Haidamus said in a statement.

In May, GoPro introduced a similar system using 16 cameras and Google’s software, while several other technology companies such as Facebook and Samsung have announced different plans to enter the virtual reality market.

Nokia is also planning to come back to the phone business by designing and licensing handsets once its deal with Microsoft allows it to do that late next year.

 

 

 

Will HTML5 Hide Web Exploits?

July 29, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Some of the features introduced in HTML5 can be used to hide web-based exploits and help them evade security.

Researchers from the University of Salerno and the Sapienza University of Rome in Italy have used three different techniques to obfuscate exploits like the ones usually used in drive-by download attacks.

Functionality provided by HTML5 can be efficient for malware obfuscation, the Italians have proved.

Modern security software can detect a big chunk of threats, but if they use some HTML5 features to hide the exploits served in drive-by download attacks, they could evade static and dynamic detection systems.

HTML5 has a series of scripting application programming interfaces (APIs) that can be used with JavaScript.

Experts say some of these APIs can be used to deliver and assemble the exploit in the web browser without being detected.

One method dubbed “delegated preparation” involves delegating the preparation of the malware to system APIs.

Another called “distributed preparation,” shares the code over concurrent and independent processes running within the browser.

A third involves triggering the code preparation based on the user’s actions on the malicious webpage or website.
VirusTotal detection rates for these sorts of obscured attacks remains low.

The paper published by researchers, with the catchy title of “Using HTML5 to Prevent Detection of Drive-by-Download Web Malware,” contains recommendations about some of the steps that can be taken to counter these obfuscation techniques.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Car And Pedestrian Collision App Coming Soon

July 29, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

A safety system that links vehicles and smartphones to stop those heart-stopping near misses between cars and pedestrians could be standardized by the end of this year.

The technology involves smartphones broadcasting data over a short-range radio channel to nearby cars, so the cars can determine if a collision is likely. Unlike today’s radar-based systems, this has the ability to warn around blind corners and can alert both the driver and pedestrian.

It’s being developed by engineers at Honda and was demonstrated last week at the company’s new research and development center in Mountain View, Calif., the heart of Silicon Valley.

In the demonstration that took place in a parking lot, a car was slowly cruising a row looking for a space. Ahead, and unseen to the driver, a pedestrian was walking between a car and SUV while listening to music, and was about to step into the path of the oncoming vehicle.

Seconds before the pedestrian could emerge and the two come close to collision, an alert sounded in the car: “Distracted pedestrian” and a warning appeared on the car’s LCD screen to brake. The pedestrian too got a similar alert, telling him to watch out. If the driver hadn’t hit the brakes, the car would have automatically come to a halt.

Honda has been working on the technology for three years and the first iteration is expected to be submitted for standardization around the end of this year, said Sue Bai, a principal engineer at Honda R&D, who has been developing it.

he communication takes place over a channel in the 5.9GHz band that is dedicated for intelligent transportation systems. That’s a frequency not used in current smartphones, but close enough that Qualcomm engineers were able to come up with a firmware modification so that it works on an off-the-shelf handset. No custom hardware is required in the phone.

 

 

Samsung To Sell Monitor That Can Wirelessly Charge Smartphones

July 28, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Samsung Electronics wants to unclutter your home with a monitor that can wirelessly charge smartphones and other mobile devices.

The SE370 monitor will come in 23.6-inch and 27-inch formats and is the industry’s first to have an integrated wireless charging station, the South Korean manufacturer said Monday.

But your phone will have to support the Qi wireless charging standard, which was developed by the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) and is supported by makers such as Samsung, Sony, LG, HTC and Huawei.

The charging area is on the stand for the monitor, and an LED lights up when it’s in use. The monitor has a 1920 x 1080 resolution and is optimized for video games, with richer black hues when it’s in game mode. The screen will not distort graphics with stutter and lag and has a response time of 4 milliseconds, Samsung said.

Compatible with Mac OS X and Windows 10, the SE370 also has an eye-saver mode that reduces blue light, which is believed to cause eye strain and sleep problems.

Samsung did not provide information about pricing or availability for the SE370 monitor and did not immediately respond to a request for more information.

The company’s Galaxy S6 and GS6 edge flagship smartphones support the Qi and rival Power Matters Alliance (PMA) standards for wireless charging. Earlier this year, Samsung released its own branded charging pad to juice them up.

The latest Qi specification, announced last month, will allow manufacturers to provide much faster wireless power charging options than earlier versions.

The platform has also caught on with makers such as Ikea, which launched a collection of furniture in April with built-in Qi-enabled wireless chargers.

Qi had been competing with PMA and the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP). Following a decision earlier this year, however, the two organizations announced their merger in June, with a new name yet to be decided.

 

 

Massive iPhone Counterfeiting Operation Shut Down In China

July 28, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Police in Beijing have raided a factory that made more than 41,000 fake iPhones worth as much as 120 million yuan ($19 million), including some that reached the United States, and have arrested nine suspects in the counterfeiting operation.

Apple is one of the most popular brands in China, where authorities have stepped up efforts in recent years to dispel the country’s reputation for turning out counterfeit goods.

Officials have taken stiffer action to enforce intellectual property (IP) rights, pushed firms to apply for trademarks and patents and cracked down on fakes.

Police arrested nine people, including a married couple who led the operation, after a raid in May on the factory, run under the guise of a gadget maintenance shop on the northern outskirts of the Chinese capital.

The details were revealed in a social media posting on Sunday by the public security bureau in Beijing.

The group, headed by a 43-year old man, surnamed Yu, and his 40-year old wife, surnamed Xie, both from the southern hardware manufacturing city of Shenzhen, allegedly set up the Beijing factory with six assembly lines in January, the bureau said.

They hired “hundreds” of workers to repackage second-hand smartphone components as iPhones for export, it added.

Police seized 1,400 handsets and large quantities of accessories during the May 14 raid. In the United States, the newest Apple Inc handsets can fetch $649, or more, depending on the model.

Beijing police said their investigation followed a tip-off from U.S. authorities who seized some of the fake devices.

The destination of the counterfeit phones, and how many made it there, remains unknown.

Public security representatives declined to comment on Monday, telling Reuters they had no additional information.

Apple also declined to comment, saying the investigation was ongoing.

 

 

Can OSX Make Macs Vulnerable To Rootkits?

July 28, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

The software genii at Apple have redesigned their OSX software to allow malware makers to make designer micro-software that can infect Macs with rootkits.

Obviously the feature is one that Apple software experts designed specifically for malware writers, perhaps seeing them as an untapped market.

The bug in the latest version of Apple’s OS X allows attackers root user privileges with a micro code which could be packed into a message.

Security researcher Stefan Esser said that this was the security hole attackers regularly exploit to bypass security protections built into modern operating systems and applications.

The OS X privilege-escalation flaw stems from new error-logging features that Apple added to OS X 10.10. Plainly the software genii did not believe that standard safeguards involving additions to the OS X dynamic linker dyld applied to them because they were protected from harm by Steve Job’s ghost.

This means that attackers to open or create files with root privileges that can reside anywhere in the OS X file system.

“This is obviously a problem, because it allows the creation or opening (for writing) of any file in the filesystem. And because the log file is never closed by dyld and the file is not opened with the close on exec flag the opened file descriptor is inherited by child processes of SUID binaries. This can be easily exploited for privilege-escalation,” Esser said.

The vulnerability is present in both the current 10.10.4 (Yosemite) version of OS X and the current beta version of 10.10.5. Importantly, the current beta version of 10.11 is free of the flaw, an indication that Apple developers may already be aware of the vulnerability.

An Apple spokesman said that engineers are aware of Esser’s post of course they did not say they would do anything about it. They will have to go through the extensional crisis involved in realising that their product was not secure or perfect. Then the security team will have to issue orders, signed in triplicate, sent in, sent back, queried, lost, found, subjected to an internal inquiry, lost again, and finally bury it in soft peat for three months and recycled as firelighters.

Courtesy-Fud

Best Buy To Begin Selling Apple Watch In August

July 28, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

The Apple Watch will go on sale at stores of Best Buy Co Inc, the largest U.S.consumer electronics chain, starting Aug. 7.

The Apple Watch and Apple Watch Sport models will be sold at more than 300 Best Buy stores in time for the holiday shopping season, a spokeswoman for Apple Inc  said.

“Customers love Apple Watch, and we are thrilled to begin offering it at Best Buy,” she said in an email.

Best Buy is the first retailer to sell the watch outside of the Apple retail store.

“The Apple Watch is an important addition to an emerging product category, and we know our customers want it,” Jason Bonfig, senior category officer, said on the Best Buy website.

The company said the product will also be available on its online store BestBuy.com.

The Wall Street Journal first reported that the Apple watch was coming to Best Buy.

Apple Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri told Reuters earlier this month that sales of the Apple Watch had beat the company’s expectations. He said in the nine weeks since its launch in late April, the device had sold better than either iPhones or iPads over a similar period after their launch.

 

 

Apple Offering Free Beats Headphones For Back-to-school Promo

July 27, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Apple launched its annual back-to-school promotion in the U.S., switching the deal to a free pair of Beats headphones for customers who buy eligible Macs.

The promotion launched later this year than in the past: In 2014, for example, Apple started its back-to-school campaign July 1.

Buyers who purchase a qualifying Mac between now and Sept. 18 receive a $199.95 credit toward a a pair of Beats Solo2 On-Ear Headphones, which list for that amount. Alternately, the credit can be applied to a pair of Beats Solo2 Wireless On-Ear Headphones, which run $299.95, making the out-of-pocket expense $100.

The promotion launches today in Apple’s retail stores and participating authorized on-campus stores but won’t appear on the company’s e-store until Aug. 6.

9to5Mac.com first reported on the promotion earlier today.

This year’s back-to-school promotion gives parents of college students and incoming freshmen, and teachers and staff members of all grade levels — including K-12 — the credit when they buy a new iMac, Mac Pro, MacBook, MacBook Pro or MacBook Air. Unlike years past, iPads and iPhones do not qualify.

For the last four years, Apple has handed out gift cards and maxed the amount of the offer at $100. Before that, a more generous Apple gave rebates of up to $300 toward the purchase of an iPod Touch.

Educational discounts on the hardware also apply. MacBooks and MacBook Airs are reduced by $50 for parents of students and for faculty and staff. The discounts on other products are $100 on MacBook Pros, $100 to $200 on Retina 5K iMacs, $50 to $100 on iMacs, and $200 to $300 on Mac Pros.

 

 

 

Cloud Services Behind Amazon’s Rising Revenue

July 27, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon.com Inc’s shares surged more than 20 percent last Friday, adding more than $46 billion to the company’s market value, after strong growth in the e-commerce giant’s cloud business drove a surprise quarterly profit.

The company’s market capitalization soared to more than $270 billion, overtaking that of Wal-Mart Stores, the world’s biggest retailer.

Revenue from Amazon’s cloud operations – Amazon Web Services (AWS) – nearly doubled in the second quarter, indicating that the business was poised to drive sustainable earnings for the online retailer, Wall Street analysts said.

Operating margins at the unit jumped to 21.4 pct from 7.7 percent.

“Product sales are Amazon’s bread, but AWS is its butter,” Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter said in a note, raising his price target on the stock by 21 percent to $700.

“They delivered a pretty large profit, we expected a loss … they exercised discipline and did not invest in new consumer electronic product launches.”

Investors have raised concerns that the company’s aggressive spending may not pay off. But strong growth in AWS and positive commentary on the Amazon Prime service allayed some worries.

Amazon Prime members, who pay $99 a year for speedier delivery and exclusive access to certain movies, music and Kindle books, tend to spend more than regular users of Amazon’s services.

“The scale of their distribution network is starting to generate better incremental margins,” Barclays analyst Paul Vogel said.

“That, coupled with the continued strong growth in both revenue and margins at AWS, moves us from cautious to optimistic on the next year of growth for Amazon.”

Amazon, which last reported a profit in the fourth quarter of 2014, considers AWS its main engine of growth, along with Amazon Prime and Marketplace, where the company acts as a middleman for third-party vendors.

 

 

 

Microsoft Set To Release Advanced Threat Analytics

July 27, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft is very close to releasing Advanced Threat Analytics (ATA) the security sure-up that it first announced three months ago.

ATA, or MATA as we called it for our own small amusement, is the result of three months’ real world testing, and the culmination of enough user feedback to inform a final release.

That final release will happen in August, which should give you plenty of time to get your head around it.

Hmmm. Microsoft’s Advanced Threat Analytics seems like a very good idea focused on the enterprise.

— Kevin Jones (@vcsjones) May 4, 2015

Idan Plotnik, who leads the ATA team at Microsoft, explained in an Active Directory Team Blog post that the firm is working towards removing blind spots from security analytics, and that this release should provide a strong and hardy tool for the whacking away of hacking.

“Many security monitoring and management solutions fail to show you the real picture and provide false alarms. We’ve taken a different approach with Microsoft ATA,” he said.

“Our secret sauce is our combination of network Deep Packet Inspection, information about the entities from Active Directory, and analysis of specific events.

“With this unique approach, we give you the ability to detect advanced attacks and stolen credentials, and view all suspicious activities on an easy to consume, simple to explore, social media feed like attack timeline.”

The Microsoft approach is an on-premise device that detects and analyses threats as they happen and on a retrospective basis. Plotnik said that it combines machine learning and knowledge about existing techniques and tactics to proactively protect systems.

“ATA detects many kinds of abnormal user behaviour many of which are strong indicators of attacks. We do this by using behavioural analytics powered by advanced machine learning to uncover questionable activities and abnormal behaviour,” he added.

“This gives the ability for ATA to show you attack indicators like anomalous log-ins, abnormal working hours, password sharing, lateral movement and unknown threats.”

A number of features will be added to the preview release, including performance improvements and the ability to deal with more traffic, before general availability next month.

Courtesy-TheInq

Microsoft Unveils ‘Send’ Mobile App

July 24, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Microsoft unveiled a mobile-minded alternative to email that’s focused primarily on short, quick messages.

Named Send, the new tool aims to deliver a simple experience much like that offered by text messaging or instant messaging software but without the need to know a co-worker’s mobile number or username. Instead, Send lets users quickly fire off a message to any co-worker using just their email address; no subject line, salutations or signatures are required.

“On my way,” might be one example, or “Are you in the office today?”

The app connects to Office 365 business and school email accounts to find frequent and recent contacts; users need only tap on one to start a conversation. A “Quick Reply” option allows for speedy responses.

That Office 365 connection, meanwhile, also means conversations are synced with Outlook, letting users continue them from anywhere. Messages sent using Send are treated internally like any other work email and comply with an organization’s email compliance policies, Microsoft said.

Send is now available free for iPhone through the Microsoft Garage in the U.S. and Canada. Versions for Windows Phone and Android are coming soon, as are additional IT controls. Currently the app works with Office 365 business and school email accounts, but Microsoft plans to make it more broadly available in the coming months, it said.